Fisher: Jewish Survival Requires Commitment to Israel, U.s., Jewish Youth
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Fisher: Jewish Survival Requires Commitment to Israel, U.s., Jewish Youth

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Max M. Fisher of Detroit, president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, declared last night that the three basic commitments required of American Jewry “as central to American Jewish survival and Jewish survival itself” are to the people of Israel, to the American future and to American Jewish youth. Speaking at the banquet session of the 39th General Assembly of the CJF, Mr. Fisher declared that the American Jewish response in the “truly fateful year” of 1971 could mark “the shape, the direction and the character of the decade ahead.” and that “we must now surpass what we have done by many times, if we are to maintain our goals, to continue our progress and to see our best hopes fulfilled.” Declaring that what was “at stake is nothing more or less than the actual survival of Israel’s people and Israel,” itself.” the Detroit Jewish leader said that the issue between Israel and its Arab neighbors “has just been escalated into something far more awesome and threatening. Israel’s people are now directly confronted by the might and power of the Soviet Union.” He said the answer of American Jewry to that new peril was to respond to Israel’s call upon American Jews to raise an “unprecedented $400 million,” to take over “the entire burden of Israel’s welfare costs.”

In addition, Mr. Fisher told the 1,500 American Jewish communal leaders, “our communities require at least $100 million additional for local and national agencies,” — a total of $500 million “and we are obligated as well to assist the Israel Bond drive, which has also been asked to raise $400 million.” He added when “this awesome obligation was brought to the communities, no one doubted the need. No community, no leader, denied the necessity of Israel’s request.” Mr. Fisher said the second obligation was not only the obligation of every American citizen but also that “the American Jewish community has special obligations here as well.” Specifically, he told the delegates, the issue before American Jews is that of the American Negro. He said American Jews had reacted with “shock and dismay” to the fact that “the extreme radical element of black America has openly adopted anti-Semitism as a weapon of attack, even while it protests racism, calls for black freedom and declares itself to be only anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish.” He stressed, however, that “responsible black leaders want no part of any anti-Semitism, they speak against it and they fight it.”


Because the use of anti-Semitism is a device to “attack democracy itself,” he said, American Jews must find answers to hate, “not just to protect the American Jewish position but to protect the meaning of democracy and the American future.” Mr. Fisher also emphasized that American Jews and Jewish organizations “were in the forefront” of the equal rights revolution that began 15 years ago and that “for several years, our General Assemblies have reflected the American Jewish decision to help win this equal rights struggle” for black Americans. Warning that “black anti-Semitism gives us no excuse to withdraw our help to the great numbers who need it so desperately,” the Jewish leader said that the “lasting way to achieve our purpose is to help overcome the injustices and degrading conditions which bred prejudice and problems.” American Jews, he said, must help black Americans and all other underprivileged minorities with practical programs to improve their welfare, to provide training and education, to secure housing and jobs, and the same decencies of life that we ask for ourselves.” Discussing the needs of American Jewish youth, Mr. Fisher recalled at the 38th CJF assembly in Boston last year. Jewish students appealed to the delegates to understand the problems of the young generation.

Mr. Fisher said many delegates came to Boston “knowing but not really believing that the American Jewish community” faced the “frightening possibility that we could lose almost an entire generation of our young people.” A year later, he added, the fact was that the American Jewish leadership had not found “the magic answer for bringing back our youth. Any competent survey of our colleges would show that our sons and daughters are still slipping away in tragic numbers from the community we have built and the heritage we value.” He noted that one response of the communal leadership last year had been a recommendation that local Federations put college students and youth-oriented faculty members on their boards and budget committees to involve them in community programs and decision making and that “a respectable number of Federations have now carried out this suggestion but we have not gone far enough.” He then cited greater efforts. Some communities, he reported, had made special funds available to support “innovative student or faculty-initiated youth projects” and that some local Federations and national Jewish organizations were developing “various out-reach efforts” in which students and qualified adults “go and seek out other Jewish students, meeting them in their setting and involving them in meaningful Jewish activity.”

Mr. Fisher reported other welfare funds were “working seriously to bring Jewish community services to the campus,” the services the students themselves want” in personal counseling, pre-marriage counseling, vocational counseling “and help with drug abuse problems.” He cited also Federation support for “free university studies in Judaism.” Noting that Federations were beginning to examine the quality of Jewish education, he said “truly effective Jewish education” could significantly help build and raise Jewish commitment and he urged Jewish communities to face this responsibility “with their own complete commitment.” He said it was the obligation of the adult community “to understand that our sons and daughters are not obligated to create their Jewish community in the exact image of our own.”

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